As the PDP-BJP Government continues with the clampdown, people in most parts of the Valley, particularly in old city, get one or two hours of breather to prepare for the harshest times

nowhata

||RIYAZ KHAN

          As Srinagar sees first light of day, Mushtaq Ahmad from Nawaz Bazaar on old city, after praying at a local mosque, rushes to stock vegetables, milk and other essentials for the day. This has been his routine for almost two months now. Amid the continued curfew across Kashmir since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, people in downtown, like Ahmad get just one to two hours at the crack of the dawn to make all preparations for the day. “I have to get milk, bread and vegetables and other things essentials. There is not enough time and I am already late,” said Ahmad. Suddenly Ahmad, a Government employee remembers that he had to get the medicines for his ailing mother as well. “She is diabetic and dependent on insulin.

         The time is running out,” said Ahmad as he disappeared in a street to look for a medical shop. Locality after locality in different areas of old city there is a race against time to ensure that things needed for the day, from essentials to baby food and medicines are stocked before paramilitary forces guarding the streets and roads start blowing whistles, signaling the beginning of a long day, indoors. “These are the harshest time. But we know this too will pass,” said Muzaffar Hussain of Hawal Chowk who was waiting in a queue for his turn to get pocket of milk at a grocery shop. “This has been our routine for all these days,” he said.

        “There is no scope of forgetting to buy anything that is needed for the day. They (forces) don’t let patients not to talk of us to come out during day time.” In the past Kashmir has seen long spells of curfew and every time the spell grew longer. In 1993 the entire Kashmir including the old city remained shut for a month after Hazratbal siege. In 2010, the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference-Congress government imposed curfew after protests spiraled out of control when a fake encounter by the army in which three youths were killed in north Kashmir came to light. The unrest continued for months together with over 110 people losing their lives while the government imposed curfew for brief spells. But this summer, the curfew has already stretched for almost two months without a break in old city and most parts of Kashmir.

         “After 1990 we had seen the longest shutdown in 1991 when curfew remained imposed in entire Kashmir for 17 days. But then there was 2010 when we saw a complete shutdown for three months and a spell of curfew as well. This time it has already grown severe,” said satirist Zarief Ahmad Zarief. In old city, paramilitary forces withdraw at the dusk and get replaced by the local police before the central forces again go back to the job. It is during the night that forces completely withdraw for some hours. In the densely located old city the problems get compounded as there is little space around the houses to set up kitchen gardens, making the vast area dependent on markets for buying vegetables unlike in villages are towns where people grow vegetables in kitchen gardens.

      Though over the decades Kashmiris have developed the tradition of stocking essentials including rice, spices, cooking oil, dry vegetables, fuel and other items, the shortage of vegetables, medicines, milk and baby food items in homes is making the times difficult for people in old city and other curfew bound areas across Kashmir. In some areas of the old city like Nowhatta people have, owing to the curfew, stocked variety of pulses and have changes their diet to rice with pulses.

Locality after locality in different areas of old city there is a race against time to ensure that things needed for the day, from essentials to baby food and medicines are stocked before paramilitary forces guarding the streets and roads start blowing whistles, signaling the beginning of a long day, indoors.

       “We hardly get vegetables; the mutton and other non-veg items are already out of bounds,” said a youth Shuib Ahmad. In many areas residents complained that forces were not allowing even essential commodities to be transported inside different localities of old city. “These are the harshest restriction that I can ever recall I have being witness to. They (forces) are not allowing milk or vegetables to reach localities. People are not allowed to take a relative to hospital… People’s miseries are increasing and it is leading to more anger,” said Musaib Wani, an undergraduate. “It (curfew) is unprecedented this time as we are witnessing strict curfew across Kashmir. It is a record,” said a political analyst.

Amid the continued curfew across Kashmir since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, people in downtown, like Ahmad get just one to two hours at the crack of the dawn to complete all preparations for the day.

         What has also aggravated the situation is the battle for control between the government and the separatists. While the separatists have been through their “protests programs” asking people to open shops in the evenings but it not being allowed by the authorities. The Government has been instead imposing curfew during night as well. At Rainawari, a group of locals said that sometimes the supplies are allowed during the night. “It all depends on the mood of the forces controlling the entry points to the localities. There are times when police close all the entry points and even stop milkmen and vegetable sellers,” Gous Muhammad.

        A milkman, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din who belongs to Habbak area on the outskirts of Hazratbal, said he would supply around 500 litres milk to people in old city day. “But this time we are not supplying even half of the demand due to the strict restrictions. We are being frequently stopped from entering the old city and at times they (forces) asked us to go back, often resulting in milk to spoil,” said Mohi-ud-Din. Minister for Consumer Affairs Choudhary Zulfikar Ali denied there was any shortage of essentials in the curfew bound Kashmir. “The supplies are adequate and we have ensured that these continue unhindered. I have been myself taking stock of the situation from time to time to ensure that people don’t suffer,” he said.